The Word Guy / Knowledge

New(s) from the Word Front

Today, some random dispatches from the Word Front.

--Tough To Swallow: Have you ever noticed that the pronunciations of some words bear almost no relation to their spelling? How, for instance, would you pronounce "victuals," meaning "supplies ...

Getting Obsessive About Double Possessive

Q. Which is correct: "He's a friend of Bill" or "He's a friend of Bill's"? -- Joe Summers, Lawrenceville, N.J.

If Hillary Clinton runs for president, this could become a very common question.

Strict grammarians condemn "a friend of Bill's" as ...

Browse for Your High Brows

Wondering what to give your favorite geniuses this holiday season? These new books about language will delight your professorial posse, even Rudolph, the well-read, knows-all brain, dear.

Speaking of brains, Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist...

A Usage Whose Time Has Come

Q. In the sentence, "None of that revenue is going to the city, whose main source of income is taxes," is it correct to use "whose" to refer to a city, an inanimate object? -- Mary Kaskan, Watertown, N.Y.

A. Yes!

As the English language ...

Pleading Guilty To Using 'Pled'

Q. I recently read an article in my daily newspaper about a court defendant who "pleaded" guilty to a crime. I have always thought the past tense is "pled." Which is correct, or are both of them acceptable? -- Janice Smith, Greensburg, Pa.

A. ...

That Nasty 'So' and 'So'!

So ... a lot of people are starting their sentences with annoying, useless words and phrases. I mean, my readers are starting to notice. Look, it's rampant.

David Howe of Avon, Conn., wonders about the "so"ing together of sentences, as in, "So,...